Site To Do Business

The Station's Agent

One CRE professional leveraged demographic data on Site To Do Business to prove the feasibility of a major restaurant chain’s plans to expand.

STDB Penn ST

Site To Do Business expedited Buchanan’s work to find suitable locations for her client.

Big ideas need big plans in order to be anything more than hot air. So when Penn Station East Coast Subs, a chain of casual restaurants with 300-plus locations in 15 states, approached Holly Buchanan, CCIM, director of real estate with Katz & Associates, with plans to expand from eight locations in the Nashville, Tenn., area to 25 to 30 within five years, she knew it was time to get to work.

Such expansion, for a commercial real estate professional, is fantastic news, if a bit daunting when it comes to locating, prioritizing, and selecting sites. But Buchanan was up to the challenge.

Holly Buchanan

"I jumped on [Site To Do Business], and I was pleasantly surprised. It walked me through the process, step by step, that allowed me to create a project to do exactly what I needed.” 

— Holly Buchanan, CCIM

“It’s really a matter of putting together a bunch of smaller deals, if you know the goal is to do three, four, or five locations a year,” Buchanan says. “But I knew it was up to me to formulate a business plan to show we could successfully get to that final number.”

In March, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was shutting down economic activity across the U.S., Buchanan’s firm had limited administrative assistance, meaning she would have to do some legwork in terms of gathering demographic data and collating it so her client’s team could easily digest it. For this, Buchanan turned to Site To Do Business, a platform she was fairly familiar with, if not fully aware of its full capabilities.

“I jumped on [Site To Do Business], and I was pleasantly surprised,” she says. “It walked me through the process, step by step, that allowed me to create a project to do exactly what I needed.”

Potential Site Locations for Future Restaurants

 

That project was a rundown of 21 potential locations for Penn Station stores in and around Nashville, detailing the 2019 population, forecasted 2024 population, 2019 daytime population, and median income (as seen in the table). “I had usable data in 15 minutes, for something that usually takes a day,” Buchanan says. “I’d have to print demographic reports, highlight what I need, and enter all this into a spreadsheet.”

While not a comprehensive table of all the necessary data for a five-year project, the report did allow Buchanan to approach Don Robinson, the franchisee behind the Nashville expansion, with a quick guide to start the conversation.

“It made me feel comfortable with where we’re headed,” Robinson says. “Every businessperson is going to have necessary criteria for expansion, whether it’s four or five basic data points, and here I can see what will and will not work for us.”

Buchanan and Robinson, while rethinking some plans in the wake of the pandemic, are nonetheless focused on a robust expansion — something that requires them to further collaborate to identify the sites that would be higher priority now, rather than locations that could see development in 2022 or 2024.

“Take the first two listings, at South Cumberland St. and the Lebanon Pike,” Buchanan says. “In this initial report, you can see how the daytime populations are significantly higher than the total. That is promising.”

Additionally, while other locations may not have the population or income to be at the front of the line, they could hold potential for the future. The site on TN-76, for instance, is projected to grow more than 10 percent in the next five years, while its median income puts it among the more lucrative areas on the list.

“It’s important to do your homework to ensure your success,” Robinson says. “We have big plans for Nashville, so this data allows us to see if we are being realistic ­— and after working with Holly, we feel our future is bright.”


For more on this topic, check out Site To Do Business for commercial real estate professionals.

Nicholas Leider

Nicholas Leider is senior content editor for Commercial Investment Real Estate. Contact him at nleider@ccim.com.